For those paying attention the results are coming in for the Republic of Ireland referendum on gay marriage and its looking like the republic is about to become a world first. That is the first nation on the planet that voted for same sex marriage by popular vote rather than political or legal mandate or rule.
Watching this it is looking like a good majority are voting YES and the NO vote is about 40%. So unless something changes radically the Yes vote would seem secure and Ireland is about to join the 19 nations where same sex marriage is legal. A remarkable achievement for a nation where homosexuality was illegal a generation ago.
I am paying attention to this for three reasons, all of which I think are important.
The first is making same sex marriage legal, overthrowing the tyranny of hatred and religion that has resulted in men and women being persecuted, punished or discriminated against because of who they love. Ireland was once the byword for a Catholic nation, one where the rules of the church had precedent and where people lived under the oppression of the religion.
They are not finished yet but this is a very good step in entering a 21st century where humanity is important and religion is just something you personally believe in. Now if they can deal with the Catholic / Protestant hatred, the sectarian violence, the abuse of children by priests and so on they will be truly leading the world.
But this is a very good first step, placing human beings first and foremost while the adherents of the sky fairies and intolerance and tyranny are being shown the door.
I suspect there are going to be a lot of same sex marriages in the emerald Isles over the next few days.
The second reason is that this is the first time that a population has been given a vote on such a matter. The other nations that have voted yes or no on same sex marriages have all done so through a handful of votes cast by judges or politicians, sometimes with significant pressure from the population, sometimes in closed rooms out of sight.
But Ireland put the vote to the population which gives this result a legitimacy that none of the political decisions can claim. Politicians come and go and all too often change their opinions as fast as the latest polls. But a national referendum has a legitimacy, the nation itself has spoken, the population have made their choice.
The turnout is looking to be a bit lower than the UK general election and a lot lower than the Scottish referendum, somewhere around the 60% mark with what is looking like two thirds voting yes.
This does mean that the Yes vote represents 40% of the voting population but for those who say it doesn’t represent the will of the actual majority since less than half the voters support it I would draw your attention to the fact that our current Tory government got into power with 25% of the voting population choosing them.
The third reason is that Ireland has an interesting attitude to democracy. They actually ask the population what they think in the form of referendums on major issues. They don’t throw out a few polls, listen to a few focus groups them have a handful of politicians make decisions for the population. I’m not just talking out parliament here but it is high on my list.
An aspect of these referendums is that people actually seem to get involved, they debate and argue the matter, they have opinions and they express them. They realise that their votes actually count rather than being a waste of time because the FPTP system is a two party stitch up (soon to be a one party stitch up).
Now Ireland is a small nation, with a population far smaller than the UK. But even without postal votes they still manage to hold referendums on major changes. Something that many in the UK say is impossible, given the much larger population etc etc.
But the larger population means nothing IF you implement the technology to make such referendums possible and yes there are flaws with technology but these can be overcome if done properly and by that I mean someone other than the usual government IT partners who come in years late and billions over budget for a piece of crap that never works and will be dumped long before its end life arrives.
But it can be done. Millions of people visit an ATM every day, fraud and crime happens but it is very rare thanks to the security that is in place. If voters had a voting card and could vote simply by popping round to the nearest bank or government office, putting in their card, voting and then going off to do something else perhaps voting would be more common.
How about a maximum of one referendum a month and everyone has a week to vote, none of this one day rush to get to a polling station and all the hassle of bits of paper.
What I am referring to her is a digital democracy, much closer to a true democracy that anything we have at present. Here in the UK we may, MAY, have a referendum on remaining in the EU at some point over the next few years.
But already you can see the steps being put in place to negate the vote or to use massive propaganda to bias the vote so much that the government can claim it isn’t needed.
Still I can hope that Britain can, one day, actually stand up as a world class democracy and a truly democratic and humanitarian nation.
Anyway, well done Ireland. A good day for Humanity and democracy.